Forensic Chemistry Graduate Degree Program Options and Information

Oct 25, 2019

In master's and doctoral degree programs in forensic chemistry, students learn to apply their knowledge of chemical processes to law enforcement investigations or product failures. Details about the degrees follow, along with career and salary info.

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Essential Information

Master's degree programs require a bachelor's degree with completed coursework in chemistry or biological sciences as well as a thesis. For Ph.D., a bachelor's degree in chemical sciences, forensic science or a related field is required. Some programs may require a master's degree, completion of specific coursework, such as analytical chemistry or biochemistry, and may require a passing score on a proficiency exam in relative concepts. A dissertation will also be required. Online courses and programs are available.

Master of Science in Forensic Science

A Master of Science in Forensic Science program can prepare students for several career options by teaching them forensic business concepts and providing them with science-based skills. Students gain the skills necessary to perform forensic lab work, complete quality assurance tasks and provide expert testimony in the courtroom. Programs provide students with the foundation necessary to apply chemistry, forensic biology and genetics skills in a forensic setting. Students should also develop their written and oral communication skills in order to make professional presentations during courtroom proceedings. Graduates of the program compete for positions in laboratories or government agencies. Students receive the training required to become laboratory analysts or forensic scientists through coursework in crime scene investigation, physical evidence and trace evidence analysis. They should also learn how to apply the special analytical skills required to review evidence. Programs may include the following courses:

  • Forensic science and law
  • DNA technology
  • Forensic serology and toxicology
  • Analytical methods in forensics
  • Medicinal chemistry
  • Forensic drug analysis

Doctor of Philosophy in Forensic Chemistry

The Ph.D. program prepares students for research opportunities related to current issues in criminal forensics. For example, students have the opportunity to focus on research projects such as the uncovering and investigation of ultra-trace elements at crime scenes or the typing of DNA at disaster sites. Students can pursue multiple career options, including opportunities as scientists or postsecondary educators. Students learn a range of concepts in genetics, explosives, drug enforcement and toxicology. Some programs allow students to tailor their program by choosing a concentration in biochemistry or analysis. Programs may include the following coursework:

  • Population genetics
  • Forensic analysis of biological materials
  • Explosives and accelerants
  • Forensic toxicology
  • Spectroscopic techniques

Popular Career Options

Graduates of forensic chemistry programs gain the scientific skills necessary to pursue careers in crime laboratories, government agencies or coroner's offices. Programs should provide the business intelligence required to act in several professional roles. Popular career options include the following:

  • Forensic scientist
  • Pathologist
  • Trace evidence examiner
  • Forensic odontologist
  • Forensic toxicologist

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Graduates of Ph.D. programs may pursue careers as medical scientists. Medical scientists may further specialize in a subject area such as serology or toxicology. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that medical scientists could expect estimated job growth of 8% from 2018-2028, which is as fast as the average ( The BLS reveals that medical scientists earned a median annual salary of $84,810 as of 2018.

Individuals interested in the specialty can enroll in a master's degree program in forensic science that contains courses in forensic chemistry. A doctoral program (Ph.D.) might appeal more to individuals who are interested in teaching forensic chemistry at the university level or working in consultation or medical science research.

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